Information published on 26 July 2011 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 247.

High-Speed Rail Authority, Obama Administration Officials Agree on Pursuing Sustainable Project

  • High-Speed

With its potential for running on 100 percent clean electricity, diverting growing numbers of travelers from crowded freeways and encouraging infill development in cities across California, the state’s high-speed rail project will provide Californians an environmentally sustainable option for traveling throughout the state.

And now state and federal officials have put to paper an agreement for making that happen.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority – charged with developing the system Californians voted for in 2008 with Proposition 1A – was joined in Sacramento today by the US Department of Transportation Federal Rail Administration and Federal Transit Administration, US Department of Housing and Urban Development and US Environmental Protection Agency to sign an agreement covering broad efforts to promote sustainability in the California high-speed rail system. Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, the Alliance for Sustainable Energy and the California Strategic Growth Council also attended the event in support.

“From solar power initiatives to green manufacturing tax exemptions, California has proven itself a leader over and over again in pursuing an economically powerful and environmentally conscious future,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark. “High-speed rail presents a new and significant step forward down that path: a clean, safe, affordable and fast way to travel that takes the pressure of a growing population off our airports and freeways.”

The MOU signed today by state and federal partners establishes a framework under which the agencies can work together to achieve an environmentally sustainable high-speed rail system in California. This MOU defines common goals, identifies key areas for collaboration and defines expectations and terms for signatory agencies.

“The development of high-speed rail is pivotal step in providing Californians an environmentally clean way to travel,” stated Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani. “Each year, high-speed trains will use one-third the energy of air travel and one-fifth the energy of auto travel in addition to eliminating more than 12 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s signing brings a framework for working together to ensure that California’s high-speed train system lives up to its potential for helping protect the health of California’s residents and out state’s natural resources.”

At today’s event, Karen Rae, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration remarked: “We view this as a critical process where we will have proactive and constructive feedback as we implement this project. We are very thrilled with this MOU and the collaboration that it will ensure.”

“We believe this agreement will serve as a catalyst for development of a high-speed train system that best serves urban and rural communities while protecting California’s natural resources,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

The implementation of today’s agreement is already underway. The signatory agencies have defined specific opportunities and developed a work plan, and they meet regularly to align efforts, jointly address challenges and share expertise.

”Valuing communities and neighborhoods is all about planning and working together,” says HUD Regional Administrator Ophelia Basgal. “We must ensure that federal investments support safe, healthy and walkable communities, whether in cities, suburbs or rural areas.”

Throughout the planning, siting, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining of California’s system, the agencies that signed today’s MOU agreed to look for sustainable practices that protect the health of Californians and their natural resources and minimize air and water pollution, energy usage and other environmental impacts. They also agreed that a well-planned high-speed rail system will bring added benefits, including:

  • Promoting sustainable housing and development patterns that incorporate local goals and interests;
  • Integrating station access and amenities into the fabric of surrounding neighborhoods;
  • Stimulating multimodal connectivity and thereby increasing options for affordable, convenient access to goods, services and employment;
  • Reducing per passenger transportation emissions across California; and
  • Protecting ecologically sensitive and agricultural lands.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s major urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. The first phase of the project, San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, is projected to cost $43 billion. Initial infrastructure construction will begin in the Central Valley, the backbone of the system, in 2012. The project is being funded through a voter-approved state bond, federal funding awards and public-private partnerships.

(Source: California High Speed Rail Authority)